About Stephan Oberhoff (by Jimmy Dunne)
(Lifelong client. Songs on 28,ooo,ooo records as a songwriter, in 1,500 TV shows and films. President of Inspire Entertainment)
L ots of guys (and girls) have recording studios — and the sign on their door says they do it all. A one-stop-music-shop. They’ve got the studio, they play instruments, they’re songwriters, they’re arrangers, they’re engineers, they’re producers.
Jack of all trades.
Here’s what’s real.
It’s a little bit like a funnel.
At the top of the funnel are tons and tons and tons and tons of folks all around the country, at every age imaginable, with home studios. Some little studios, some fancy-pants studios with lots of knobs. Just talk to the accountant at guitar center, and he’ll tell you how many little studios are out there.
Back to the funnel.
First up; let’s look at their musician chops. I’ve heard thousands of songs from musicians and bands in towns in every nook and cranny across our great country. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say about 99.9% are fabulously average. How many musicians are out there? A bazillion. So 1/999th of bazillion is the number of really good musicians.
And if that 1/999 play an instrument great (keyboards, drums, bass, organ, sax, sing, you name it) — they usually are great at that one thing. You can pretty much count on it that they’re mediocre at best at their second favorite instrument.
With that in mind, think about how many musicians you know that are spectacular piano players across multiple genres — that are also, legitimately, fantastic acoustic guitar players. While you’re at it, throw in electric guitar, accordion, bass, and keyboard drums (an art in itself). And when they play a cello part on a keyboard, they play it as a cellist player would play the part.
The funnel just got a whole lot narrower.
Second up; their songwriting chops. Mixing in loops on top of existing songs is not songwriting. There are some amazing, fabulous young songwriters, with extraordinary abilities to move complete strangers to tears, or to pump them up — all within a three-minute window — using the toolbox of words and melody. That’s a gift. A very rare one.
“Arranging? It means you don’t ever get to use sounds called “large orchestra.”
The funnel is starting to feel more like a bad salt shaker.
Engineering? There’s a real, real, real art to mastering the balancing and weaving of the sonics and sound ranges of parts of a song. And knowing all the gear and what went wrong when it’s sure to go wrong. And being a big fan of Mies van der Rohe’s ‘less is more.’
Trouble getting salt out of the shaker?
Last but not least, producing.
Einstein would write: Producer = EQ (emotional quota) + SS (social skills) + GMG (George Martin genes). That’s the winning ticket.
Nothing’s coming out of the shaker.
And then there’s Stephan Oberhoff.
— JIMMY DUNNE